Cracked and Oozing

I keep thinking I should write more. But I don’t want to primarily share negativity. I want to write uplifting and cheerful and fun words. And when life is uplifting and cheerful and fun, I’m focused on living it, soaking it in. So those experiences and words? They are held close and treasured but rarely shared with a blank page. I hope to remedy that. But herein lies the current problem. Primarily? Mostly?  I’m tired. I’m emotionally exhausted from the strain of decisions made by members of both my immediate family and the one I married into. I’m drained from watching my husband struggle to stand up for what he knows is right while trying to balance the feelings and hurts and relationships of those he loves. I’m frustrated that I can’t help him and that no one else involved seems to feel peace is a priority if it means any kind of sacrifice on their part – all while he is sacrificing his energy and heart. I’m wearied from watching helplessly from a distance as those close to my heart attempt to self-destruct, taking out other loved ones with them. I’m broken hearted from the deluge of news from friends and acquaintances that reverberate through conversations and texts and social media with pain that encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual realms.  I’m emptied, physically, from the apparent rebellion of my body. And I’m worn down, mentally, from the uncertainty – how will my body react to my former “normal”? Is it really all in my head? Am I losing my mind? Becoming lazy and subconsciously creating an excuse?

I feel cracked, oozing energy at all levels. I looked at the 100 Word prompt thinking I just needed to write SOMETHING and immediately felt as if my brain was wrapped in a thick, suffocating blanket. The idea of anything outside of essential day to day actions just…well… fatigues me.

I want to be support for my husband, not another burden. I want to be loving and attentive wife and mother and sister and daughter and friend. I want to be active. Right now, I’m none of that. I feel as if I’m a shadow, going through necessary actions.

Thankfully everything in life is temporary – highs and lows and every season – it all passes and ripples and morphs into the next phase. I know that. I’m just ready to start reshaping this one, molding it like clay into a more invigorating life (and persona). However, I’m not the Potter. I’m the clay. God doesn’t want life to be lived under my own strength. He doesn’t want me to simply survive situations but to grow closer to Him, become more like Him. The temptation to insulate myself (and my family) rears its head. The desire to “write off” the difficult people and situations sneaks into my spirit. The fantasy of telling people they got themselves into this mess or lambast them for their deficiencies is attractive. But none of that is an option. As quickly as I find those ideas growing, I (try to) uproot and remove them from my psyche. That’s not who I was created to be. I was created to be cracked. I was created to ooze emotions and energy on the behalf of others. I was created to love. And that’s not easy or fun. It doesn’t feel good. It’s not romantic. I might not have the energy to respond to a writing prompt, or write at all. I might not be able to fathom training for a triathlon, or even running a 5k. But I will continue to love. Or at least strive to. But maybe after a nap?

Prayer

Though prayer has woven tighter into the fabric of my life lately, I’ve often thought I don’t pray for my own family enough, that it’s my husband and kids that fall through the cracks, that get the token rushed words tossed towards the sky.  They do tend to top my “thanksgiving” talks and prayers of gratefulness but it is certainly not my intention to slight them in intercessions.

My solution? I’ve started using natural prompts in my everyday routine. I pray for familial relations, transitions, interactions etc when cooking dinner. I pray for each boy individually as I make their lunches. I pray for my husband and our marriage as I do our laundry or prep for the next day.

They’re small moments but they’re worth embracing.

Be Still.

I stood in church yesterday during the first song, unable to sing. It was a praise song, one of my favorites, but I couldn’t. I was mad. All I could think was “Why. I don’t understand. Why take HIM? From THAT FAMILY? Haven’t they dealt with enough? Why this?”

Then the song transitioned into “Our God (is Greater)” the chorus of which says

“Our God is greater, our God is stronger
God You are higher than any other
Our God is Healer, awesome and power
Our God, Our God… “

Todd wasn’t healed…at least not physically. But he was healed emotionally and spiritually (per a post from his brother – obviously I haven’t spoken to him to know personally). And God whispered, aren’t those the more important aspects?

I. Lost. It.

I sobbed through the rest of the set from anger and just an overwhelming conviction. Because.

I cling to that statement of peace from his brother. Because I can’t contemplate the alternative and the very IDEA reduces me to a sobbing mess because it occurs to me that where people stand spiritually hasn’t been nearly the concern it should be.  It’s rarely something that crosses my mind except for the occasional rote ‘please open so and so’s heart to You’, recited out of habit and checklist, not out of love when really it should be forefront of my heart and mind on a regular basis. I should be crying out to God, begging Him to soften hearts, to work miracles in lives.

Conviction, yes. But also. Anger. Because really. Still. The suffering? Why? You’re Greater God. So why? I HEARD God tell me “I’m still in charge you know.” But I ignored it. I was mad and a sobbing mess and just. Grrrr. I was drained by the end of service from the sheer act of ignoring Him. It’s so easy to toss around the phrase “We live in a broken world.” We DO. But still. My husband (after reminding me about the suffering he watched as his grandfather died) stated “In the light of eternity, what’s a few days of suffering?”

BUT STILL.

This morning I was reading Exodus. And I couldn’t get pass the fact that God let his chosen people suffer. It just kept beating me about the head. He let His chosen people suffer. For generations. For a purpose that wasn’t to be fulfilled for many generations after that.

And then I recalled a conversation I had with LilBit last weekend. I told him we were stopping at the store on the way to church. He sighed heavily. We got done at Walgreens and as he skipped out he said “I thought we were going to the grocery store! Not Walgreens!” (He HATES the grocery store.) I replied “I didn’t specify which store.” He proceeded to inform me that I SHOULD have. And I said….and I quote “Why? You weren’t driving. All you have to do is ride along and trust me.”

And. Bam.

I don’t know why this family has to deal with this. I don’t have to like it. Which is good. Because I don’t.  But I don’t have to understand it either. All I have to do is ride along and trust Him.

Learn from others

1.  I had the opportunity to witness two people in almost identical situations today. One had slightly more urgent circumstances but her attitude was characterized by a steadfast faith in God, positive outlook and focus on others. The other person however seemed determined to wallow in frustration and impatience. Identical situations but completely different attitudes.

2. One of our employees succumbed last night to cancer. (I did not really know him…only met him a couple of times). But sadly all I heard all day was “Oh no! He was planning retirement. He was going to….x y & z…” etc. Never once did I hear about what how he lived or what he did in his life. It was all focused on what he planned and missed out on.

Summary? Don’t wait until later to start living. Planning for the future isn’t BAD but when it overshadows living NOW then there’s a problem. To me it highlighted that our time is limited. My future is in heaven and that’s where my focus should be BUT (and this is a huge BUT…no comments…geez…) BUT I’m here for a reason. I’m living NOW, for a reason. I can’t focus so much on the future that I miss life and opportunities now. And all the while – *I* control my attitude and outlook. And that can make the difference between blessing/uplifting someone and, well, not.

 

Jack Frost: arch nemesis or friend?

I think I’ve established that I’m not at all a fan of winter…or more to the point, I’m not a fan of being cold. But there’s a lot to like about this season really: the fuzzy/soft sweaters and cute boots, the warm drinks with yummy pumpkin or mint seasoning, the lights and parties and general good cheer and yes, even the crisp pretty snow and snowball fights and rosy cheeks. (And I would really LOVE to learn to ski. I’ve wanted to do that since 2005 but it’s just doesn’t seem to be in the cards anytime soon.)

I really only have one beef with winter – inefficiency.  It takes twice as much consideration and time to get dressed.  Even if I’m already dressed, there is no grabbing my keys and going. I have to put on socks and shoes and a coat and (sometimes) gloves and a hat and scarf. And as CUTE as those hat/scarf/glove combos can be…they take time to put on/take off.  I can’t just get in the car and leave. The car has to be warmed up and/or defrosted so it’s safe to drive. And forget about a quick jaunt to the grocery store. Even that is transformed into an exercise of hyper vigilance with slick roads and other drivers who don’t seem to realize that sometimes it’s necessary to slow down and pay attention.

But I also have to wonder, is this God’s way of slowing us down? As our calendars start disappearing under the slew of holiday events and all the accompanying baking/decorating/shopping preps, is it possible that He designed this season into our lives as a natural pause? Instead of seeing perceived delays, perhaps I should focus on the opportunity to weave quiet moments into my life, to appreciate the everyday joys.

Empty spaces

TheBoy and I were discussing The Announcement made yesterday at church. (PAUSE: If you attend The Pursuit and don’t know what I’m talking about, go here. It’s ok. I’ll wait.) He asked if these leaders felt God was leading them to makes this change, why did they not wait until they had all the details fleshed out and THEN go? (Vague, I know. Details are irrelevant. And I’m para-phrasing)  I said it was like that saying “you don’t need to see the whole staircase, just the next step”. God doesn’t hand you a 5 year plan. He just says “here’s the next step”.

That’s an attitude I’m working on myself. As someone that thrives on calendars and lists and plans, that has been a difficult concept for me to wrap my mind around.  It boils down to this – do I trust God? Or my plans?

Almost three years exactly from when I started in the kids’ ministry at our church, I will be leaving it.  I’ve slowly been telling people over the past week. It’s certainly not a major announcement for anyone else, nor will it be a massive change within the program. But it does mean a pretty major shake up in my life. It’s a great team. I love them dearly and I’ve worked with quite a few of them the majority of those years, if not all.  For all the tweaks and changes made to the program, it was still familiar and comfortable. I knew my roles, I knew where I fit.

Now? I have no idea. I know where my passion is but I don’t know how that is going to look.  God has introduced me to many people lately that are making fascinating moves within the hungry/homeless ministries, people with ideas and plans and passion, people that I am excited to talk with and would love to work with. Will I work directly with everyone? No. Of course not. I feel like a network is being developed but I still have NO idea what my role is going to be within that network. I have no idea what the next step looks like. I look to the future and my schedule is unwritten.

It’s a little scary.

Oh I know. We’re not talking major life changes in the same vein of Josh & Bren and families. God’s not asking me to risk…anything. He’s asking me to exchange faith in my calendar with faith in Him. And if I can’t do that with something as minor as volunteer details, how can He trust me to do that with anything else in my life? I’m letting go of the usual desire to jump headfirst into the next endeavor, to immerse myself, to fill up every empty space on the calendar. I’m  repeating to myself (and others) “I don’t know what it’s going to look like yet.”

I’m just…resting in the unknown. And my head hasn’t exploded yet. God really does change people.

Counter-intuitive

These are some thoughts that came to me during my quiet time this morning as I was praying for some of my fellow mamas. (You can read if you’re NOT a mom. But it was written as I considered the particular plights of that role.)

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Our relationship with God is the most important one we’ll ever have. Every other interaction, from kids to husbands to friends, EVERY OTHER interaction we have filters through our interaction with Him. While we get overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done, He’s asking us to just Be, to spend a moment with Him. It should not be another obligation, something else to check off the to do list. He doesn’t NEED anything from us. He just wants us. He is our Lifeblood, our Joy,our Strength. He loves our husbands & children more than we ever can. He placed us in their lives and will infuse us with His peace, patience and energy that we need to fulfill these roles…if we can only learn to REST in Him.

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It is counter intuitive. There’s so much to do. The house is a disaster. The chicken for dinner is still frozen solid. Multiple kids needs multiple things and they all need them NOW. Hubs is having a bad day/week/year. The dog just puked on the carpet, the baby is trying to eat it, the toddler is having a meltdown and the teenager just slammed a door. Again. The laundry is overtaking the living room and the dishes…let’s not even go there. The idea of quiet time is laughable. How can you…how can I…afford to make time for God?

How can we afford NOT to?

Confession of an ah-ha moment

When we got back from vacation, I decided I needed to retain a fragment of my vacation self. I decided I need to be intentional about resting, taking days just to play, relaxing.

We’ve been back less than a month. Three and half weeks if you want to be exactly. I spent Saturday playing. I took pictures of TheBoy. I baked. We spent the evening at friends’. But the idea of being at church 11 hours Sunday weighed on me. I dreaded the next morning, the next month. Three and half weeks and I was already starting to feel the beginnings of burn out. I didn’t understand it.

I can’t emphasis this enough…I absolutely LOVE working on Sundays. And yesterday was no exception. Once I was there (after an initial stressful moment because someone had moved my stuff) and in the midst of it, I didn’t want to be anywhere else. But I was still exhausted.

Sundays used to be one of my most energetic days. I remember vividly the feeling of vivacity.  I never felt run down or exhausted. I would joke it was super natural energy. But perhaps I shouldn’t have joked.

Here’s my confession – my “quiet times” lately have been quiet. They’ve been peaceful. But they haven’t been particularly God centered. Oh I’ve read my two minute devotionals. I’ve bowed my head and talked at Him for a little bit. I’ve skimmed over a few Psalms. And all the while my to-do list for the day has been churning in the back of my mind or I get distracted by another email I check “just for a second” after the devotional or I quickly set my Bible down for my car keys…  I have been moving further from “getting out of the way and letting God do…” and more towards “here’s what I need to do…”  And quite frankly, I don’t have the energy to be the mother, wife, volunteer, friend and employee that I need to…should….want to be.

It’s time I start my days with “You’re gonna have to get this one God” instead of “Okay, you’ve got 15 minutes”.  Things work a lot better when I do.

Perspective

I don’t HAVE to get up at 4:30 – 5:00.

I GET to emerge from my warm comfortable bed to sip gourmet coffee and snuggle in my comfy chair to enjoy quiet time.

I don’t HAVE to go to the gym.

I GET to keep my fully functional body healthy.

I don’t HAVE to go to the office and deal with irritating people.

I GET the opportunity to interact with people God brings into my life…and help provide for my family.

I don’t HAVE to drink water.

I GET to enjoy fresh, clean, healthy water just steps from my desk. Or wherever I am.

I don’t HAVE to cook dinner or  make the boys’ lunches.

I GET to nourish my family with a variety of food that is both delicious, healthy & convenient.

I don’t HAVE to clean house.

I GET to maintain a nice, comfortable home for my family to enjoy and to welcome guests.

I don’t HAVE to do laundry.

I GET to enjoy a vast array of clean clothes.

I don’t HAVE to chauffer my boys all over the freakin valley.

I GET to spend quality time with them while transporting them to beneficial activities.

What do you GET to do?

Excellent Wife

It’s no secret that my husband spoils me incredibly. I often sit in awe that I have the privilage of being married to a man who is not only thoughtful, selfless, loving & generous, but also GETS me. Every gift he’s ever given me has been perfect (hello DSLR for my birthday!!) but it goes deeper than that.  He knows my moods and moodiness. He knows when I need a break. He is the husband I need.

But am I the wife he needs?

It’s easy to get caught up in this ideal of a perfect wife…the Proverbs 31 or Titus 10 woman. She’s productive and wise, serene and respectful. Her meals are always fabulous, her house is always spotless. She doesn’t know that  bad hair (or face) days exist. Her children are always angels. She’s multi talented and never snaps at her family. She supports her husband perfectly while weaving an elaborate wardrobe, dropping birthday cards in the mail on time and smiling peacefully. She’s flippin Mary Poppins.

And she doesn’t exist.

As women we tend to focus on what we SHOULD be doing…and what we’re not doing. But maybe what we should be focusing on is what our husbands consider important. What makes them feel loved? What makes them feel most relaxed in their home? The other day I asked Jon what he thought about me giving up make-up altogether. His response was to shrug and say “You’ll get ready faster, right?” He just didn’t care. If I never painted my nails again it wouldn’t faze him. But to some men that’s important. Maybe your husband would prefer a leisurely, hot dinner as a family but doesn’t care if the clean laundry is piled on the couch. Maybe clutter drives him nuts but he’ll happily eat a sandwich after work. I don’t know what it looks like in your house but maybe instead of striving to be the Proverbs 31 woman, we should instead strive to be the wife and partner our husband needs.

I’ll be the first to admit I’m not good at this. Where my husband is selfless and intuitive, I’m self involved and self centered. While it often seems like he can read my mind, I’m often at a loss on what’s going through his. I’ve been assuming he’d tell me if he wants me to do something differently. But maybe it’s time I take the initiative.